Jeesy Carpenter and the Adulterer’s Stone

“Could the next Harry Potter be a devout Christian?” That’s the rhetorical question that begins the WaPo’s exploration of “Christian Fantasy” in their front page article, “Christian Fantasy Genre Builds Niche Without Hogwarts, Muggles or Spells.”

Being the heathen I am, I always thought “Christian Fantasy” had something to do with snorting blow off a gay hooker’s ass while pretending that you’re a happily married straight dude, but it turns out that “Christian Fantasy” is an entire literary genre that apes the themes built by giants like Tolkien and Rowling, then pastes over the icky stuff—like devil juice, err, magic. And the girl characters probably aren’t so “smart” and “uppity,” either.

Like the Potter series, it has mystical creatures, macabre events, epic battles and heroic young protagonists.

But, unlike the Potter books, this genre has overt Christian tones: messiah-like kings who return from the dead, fallen satanic characters and young heroes who undergo profound conversions. What you won’t generally find: humans waving wands and performing spells.

Or, ya know, fun.

And certainly no resemblance to actual humanity. Even in the books for Christian adults, including other genres like Christian romance and Christian horror, there’s “No swearing (not even ‘gosh’ and ‘darn’), no dancing or drinking by Christian characters, no gambling, no mention of intimate body parts. And forget sex scenes, even if the characters are married to each other.” Just a bunch of stick figures on a page living impossibly flawless lives. Talk about Christian fantasy.

Between the ridiculously popular incarnation of clean-slate Christianity currently permeating American culture, and books catering to the idea that it’s possible to live a sin-free life once one’s been “saved,” it’s no wonder there are so many sanctimonious pricks running around, judging and condemning those of us who are just trying to live the lives we were given and exerting no effort to hide that we’re flawed and make the occasional mistake.

The sad and infuriating thing about these wankers is that they don’t even understand the most basic principle of Christianity—if there were such a thing possible as a clean-slate life, there wouldn’t be Christians in the first place. Jeesy Carpenter didn’t crawl up on that cross because no one would ever sin again; he did it because they would.

That’s the whole raison d’être for the religion so important to them they can’t read Harry stinking Potter. And they don’t even seem to care.

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73 Comments

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73 responses to “Jeesy Carpenter and the Adulterer’s Stone

  1. I have NEVER understood the profound fundamentalist Christian objection (I am specific because I do know many Christians who are down with the fantasy genre) to fantasy literature in general and Harry Potter in particular.

    Because, really, whether they like to admit it or not, the basis of the religion is magic – the song of god performing magic in the form of miracles for other people and the resurrection. God might be the source of that magic but, you know, it’s still magic.

    Maybe they think characters like Potter are uppity because they take on powers that are “rightfully” limited to the divine? Makes no sense to me. If one believes in God and miracles, I don’t see why it isn’t a natural conclusion that God is the source of the magic in these books. After all, the basic story is that of good triumphing over evil.

  2. Alix

    Very little Christian fiction (of any genre) is actually good, and what is good usually is at the margins of the genre. I told my mom once that I always knew how the plot of any given Christian book was likely to go – bad things happen to a person, person has crisis of faith (or doesn’t believe in the first place), person gets over it, person prays, Jesus saves.

    Gah. And I know people who will only read Christian fiction – and I know others who find some Christian fiction not acceptable enough, which is scary.

    I find it really sad, in a way, since there’s a lot of great Christian literature out there (The Divine Comedy is still one of my favorite works ever), but none of that’s acceptable to the folk who read this stuff either. (Speaking of The Divine Comedy, I still need to sneak a copy into my church’s library…)

  3. What’s wrong with these people? There’s plenty of good literature out there that has Christian themes and parallels that doesn’t insult the intelligence. C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia is rattling good storytelling with believable — and flawed — characters and it’s not all treacly/preachy, either. And if that’s too English for these kids, there’s E.T..

    What really infuriates me is the assumption on the part of these wankers that reading Harry Potter or Tolkien or Beowulf will convert the reader from Christianity. If your faith in your faith is that weak, the choice of children’s literature should be the least of your worries.

  4. oddjob

    That’s the rhetorical question that begins the WaPo’s exploration of “Christian Fantasy” in their front page article, “Christian Fantasy Genre Builds Niche Without Hogwarts, Muggles or Spells.”

    The REAL question they ought to ask is, “If these folks are indeed the only ones truly in touch with the Creator of the Universe, why are they always copying instead of creating?”

  5. Oh, don’t you know, oddjob? Only GOD can CREATE. The rest of us mortals are doomed to copy things. *snort*

  6. oddjob

    Strange then, that others create new art, but theirs is always “Christian __________ (write in the name of your favorite art genre here)”.

    Pft!!!!!

  7. Alix

    Maybe they think characters like Potter are uppity because they take on powers that are “rightfully” limited to the divine? Makes no sense to me. If one believes in God and miracles, I don’t see why it isn’t a natural conclusion that God is the source of the magic in these books.

    More like these are the same people who insist all other religions come from the Devil, that the Devil creates false miracles all the time, and that magic and witchcraft are tools of the Devil. So they’d actually think that the source of magic in those fantasy books is Satan, not to mention that they see anything not explicitly Christian as Satanist or secular propaganda – and every other religion is Satanism to them.

    Part of the point of Christian fiction is to emphasize surrender to God and prayer. Mainstream fantasy tends to have characters who go out and save themselves without explicitly calling on God, and that, according to these people, is an evil message.

    A lot of this is also why they’re so opposed to role-playing games and the like.

  8. anangryoldbroad

    This,IMO is just part and parcel of today’s fundie Christian’s ability to completely shelter and hide themselves from the world.

    My son goes to a martial arts school here that is chock full of right wing christian moms who will only read women’s mags that are Christian(we all sit in a waiting area sometimes while the kids are in class). They won’t read anything that is not on their minister’s approved list. There’s a whole phone book of only Christian run businesses you can get anywhere around here for free,where you can find anything from day cares to lawn service to party planners. And you cannot swing a dead squirrel here and without hitting someone(and it’s mostly women in my experience)who talks,quite loudly and pretty constantly, about God talking to them about this or that,or how sorry they feel for people who don’t go to their church,or gossip about this family or that one who “aren’t raising their children with the Lord”. Ack.

    What this is about is belonging to a Special Club For Special People. Everyone else is going to burn in hell,the poor things,bless their hearts.

  9. Oh, I get that what you have listed is the actual reasoning, Alix, I just don’t get WHY it’s that way – it seems to have to work awfully hard, like it’s playing 6 Degrees of Good and Evil or something.

    But that’s an excellent point about the characters in most modern fantasy (the main characters anyway) being self-determined and going out and saying themselves without calling on God – that WOULD seem to be anathema to what most churches are teaching.

  10. (I am specific because I do know many Christians who are down with the fantasy genre)

    Oh, me too–which is why I’m only talking about the “clean-slate” Christians. Mama Shakes is well into Harry Potter; when we had dinner at theirs Monday night, she showed me the new Harry Potter collectibles she’d just gotten. She has a huge collection, and she and Papa Shakes are both excited like giddy wee piddling puppies about the new book and the film.

  11. If your faith in your faith is that weak, the choice of children’s literature should be the least of your worries.

    Yes, but their faith is that weak. They can’t allow teaching about contraception lest their children stray and have sex. They can’t allow the teaching of evolution lest their children decide that the Earth is more than 6500 years old. They can’t listen to any music but Christian rock, lest they’re tempted to dance. They can’t watch regular television, lest they see something that makes them uncomfortable.

    Their faith is fragile, and they are constantly afraid that they will be found out for the weak, pathetic creatures they are, and that a slight breeze with separate them from the One True Path. But such is life when you haven’t studied your religion, or come to believe it’s right, but instead simply accepted it at face value.

  12. I also think there’s this matter of professional jealousy. These Christian writers are locked into a format that they can’t shake, and none of them are as creative as Rowling. They see her making billions and they’re pissed!

  13. They see her making billions and they’re pissed!

    Meth and hookers do indeed cost a lot of money. Corporate welfare, wingnut welfare, Jesusland welfare. Imagine if all that loot went to the truly needy. Imagine if unicorns were real, I suppose.

  14. Alix

    I just don’t get WHY it’s that way – it seems to have to work awfully hard, like it’s playing 6 Degrees of Good and Evil or something.

    I don’t know if this helps, but they basically think they’re constantly under assault – and in their mind, this proves they’re holy. There’s a very real undercurrent in fundie thought that if you’re not “struggling with the world” you’re not really “on God’s side”. (Phrases courtesy of folks at my now-fundie ex-church.)

    The fundies promote a really active form of asceticism, really, and one that’s, um, interestingly tailored. You’re not supposed to fully withdraw from the world – there’s heaps of scorn piled upon Catholic nuns, for example – but you’re supposed to abstain from a hell of a lot, and really, you’re kind of supposed to flaunt it, to “draw people to Jesus” by “showing them how holy and fulfilled Christians really are”.

  15. oddjob

    Oh, I get that what you have listed is the actual reasoning, Alix, I just don’t get WHY it’s that way

    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
    – John 14:6 (New International Version)

    Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
    – Exodus 22:18 (King James Version)

  16. Painini

    So… this is maybe not the best time to mention the Jesus/Voldemort parallels I’ve been noticing?

  17. Between this and Bible slashfic, anything marked “OMG Christian!” traumatizes me to the point that I have a hard time picking up things like Narnia or The Golden Compass when I know they contain Christian themes. The idea of God being thrown at me during a book I would otherwise enjoy just squicks me out.

  18. I have a hard time picking up things like Narnia or The Golden Compass when I know they contain Christian themes

    Don’t watch The Matrix then. 😉

  19. Dr. Loveless

    When my niece was in high school, she started reading the Lord of the Rings. It was a fundie school, and of course Tolkien wrote about elves and wizards and stuff, so naturally her classmates gave her grief about it. My niece is a freethinking sort in spite of her upbringing (she loves the Harry Potter books too), so I suggested to her that, the next time one of her friends starts in about LotR, she point out that Tolkien himself was a devout Christian and a personal friend of C.S. Lewis, and then watch their heads spin around on their shoulders. They never gave her shit about her reading choices again.

  20. So, Alix, it seems like the point is to suffer. That SUCKS.

    My dad’s family are Christmas Catholics and my mom’s family are LDS, so I’ve spent way more time among Christians who aren’t fundies.

    oddjob, I can’t really see how the first one applies since, you know, no one is going to Heaven in fantasy novels. The second one only makes sense if you really do believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, which I guess some fundies really do. Which is utterly depressing.

    Lancastrian, the Golden Compass stuff is a bit different…. Pullman has some serious anti-Christian viewpoints. I’d suggest that, especially in the last book, he is just as guilty of being heavy-handed about getting his message across as pro-Christian writers. Totally spoiled the trilogy for me.

  21. Zack

    Trust me, the Christian themes of The Golden Compass are nothing like the Chronicles of Narnia. That whole series is a riff on Paradise Lost, only it’s ultimately about the dangerous impotency of God, and how people should be responsible for themselves.

    Apart from the horribly manipulative ending (which most people liked), it’s a pretty great series, I thought.

  22. KarateMonkey

    This a little off topic so feel free to ignore me, but the post reminded me of something I meant to look into.

    We saw the new Harry Potter movie on Saturday, and one of the preview was for “The Golden Compass.” I haven’t read the book yet, but I remember reading that the big bad guy in the series ends up being god, not a god, but definatly and explicitly the christian god. I also recall that the author wasn’t to big on the idea of bringing the books to the big screen if it meant watering down that plot point, which I interpreted to mean it ain’t gonna happen.
    So is my memory or understanding of the books wrong, did the author give in, or are there going to be some really big protests.

  23. pokerbutt

    Anyone else need brain bleach after viewing the PICTURE on this article?

    GAH!

  24. oddjob

    oddjob, I can’t really see how the first one applies since, you know, no one is going to Heaven in fantasy novels.

    It’s the justification behind not paying attention to that which draws you away. As Alix quite right said, it’s an ascetic way of life. The better ones don’t make a show of it (doing otherwise is explicitly condemned by Jesus), but better or worse, it’s an ascetic life of the mind.

  25. Alix

    So, Alix, it seems like the point is to suffer. That SUCKS.

    Yup and yup. And it’s insidious, too. Fundie doctrine basically plays off the insecurities everyone has, the feeling of being attacked or in a hostile world that everyone gets sometimes, and plays it up until they’re paranoid wrecks.

    I mentioned my church, above. It used to be really cool, thoughtful, and non-fundie, and then fundies started moving in. In a really short span of time, they’d taken over the leadership, driven out the pastor and the other pillars of the church community, and turned the whole place really nasty and unforgiving. It was terrifying to watch hateful, angry, paranoid, and self-hating ideas gain hold of what had been a haven for me.

    Hate yourself. Hate the world. You’re a sinner, the world is Satan’s domain. Surrender to God, and be prepared to be assaulted for it. If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right.

    …I think the surprise, really, is that their fiction isn’t MORE fucked up.

  26. I’m sure the “Christian” label will be used in fantasy writing just as it has been in pop music — as a figleaf used by talentless hacks to place their work above criticism. After all, if you dare to question the works of a “Christian” artist, it must be because you oppose their religion; it couldn’t possibly be because they’re no frelling good.

    Mind you, “Politically Incorrect” humor seems to work on roughly the same principle.

  27. Don’t watch The Matrix then. 😉

    Lordy, Neo and his messiah complex. XP Still, “Nebuchadnezzar” is an awesome name. I will admit to being a direct-religiosity-in-media wuss, who fully deserves teasing for it.

    Rotund: Really? I’ve been avoiding that one based on how my cousin’s uncle luuuuurves that his kids read it, and he is very much a “HP is the devil” sort of born again Christian. Interesting. I completely agree with you though, a writer being really heavy-handed either way is not a fun thing to come up against in an otherwise engaging story.

  28. Lordy, Neo and his messiah complex.

    I don’t think it’s technically a “complex” when the duo of brothers that were your creator specifically note you were created to be a messiah, lol. (Despite which, I still loved those films!)

  29. I have a hard time picking up things like Narnia or The Golden Compass when I know they contain Christian themes

    I disagree with that; it’s all a matter of degree. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a far more effective Christian book than Left Behind, for reasons Jesus Himself stated in Matthew 6. But it’s also a wonderful story, as is the Christ myth itself. Whether or not one believes in Christ’s divinity (and I place myself in the “don’t” category, though YMMV), the themes of his myth are timeless and eternal, and because that mythology has had such an impact on Western thought, it’s one that authors will continue coming back to for generations to come.

    The sad thing about Left Behind and its spawn is that they simply aren’t good art. They’re lousy, formulaic novels that use cardboard characters to knock down strawman arguments about religions other than Christianity. There is only black and white in the story, no shades of gray, no doubt, no real conflict, and no real suspense (after all, the result of the story is preordained).

    I can read a book whose premise I disagree with, but if it’s well done I can enjoy it immensely. I don’t believe in Jesus, but the Chronicles of Narnia are still great books. I don’t believe in literal magic, but I love the Potter series. Indeed, I even liked Apocalypto, despite the insanity of Mel Gibson and the inverted Christ mythos it suggested. As a work of art, it was thought-provoking. But the “Christian” art of today isn’t aimed at people who want thoughts provoked. Meanwhile, the rest of us who have faith in our beliefs — Christian and non-Christian alike — will simply read the Potter series or not. We can imagine that world without forsaking our faith.

  30. Hate yourself. Hate the world. You’re a sinner, the world is Satan’s domain. Surrender to God, and be prepared to be assaulted for it. If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right.

    This is only half of fundie America. The other half are those who publicly assert that junk, but are so not about the suffering in their personal lives. They point to having been “born again” as evidence of their righteousness, and use it as a cloak for (often quite public) bad behavior which anyone with even a passing familiarity with the tenets of Christianity would find remarkably unchristian. George Bush and Tom DeLay are two perfect examples. James Dobson’s another; he believes “he has been entirely sanctified, morally perfected, that he does not and cannot sin.”

    And the biggest difference between the two groups is money. The latter have it and the former don’t. Fundamental Christianity is a class issue like any other in America–if you’ve got nothing, you suffer, and that’s God’s will, and it’s evidence of your righteousness, and if you’ve got loads of cash, you don’t suffer, and that’s God’s will, and it’s evidence of your righteousness.

    It dovetails nicely with secular conservative social Darwinism, too.

  31. Alix

    Melissa – Absolutely. But a lot of those who aren’t about their own suffering still like to promote at least the idea that they are. The “more persecuted than thou” mentality at work. Actually, I’ve known very few fundies who are about their own personal suffering – they’re more about making others think they’re suffering, and about blaming their supposed suffering on Satan/the world/evil group of the week. There’s a whole set of elaborate, unspoken rules for playing the “most persecuted” game – and one is that you should seem to suffer more than you do. You’re also not supposed to admit you think you’re better than everyone, but you’re supposed to think you’re “holy and set apart”, and what’s fun is seeing how many fundies you can get to admit that in one church visit.

    In my experience, the only people who take the “suffering is holy” thing truly literally are insecure fundie teens and abused fundie housewives – and not even all of them.

  32. Alix

    I should add that the most rigid – and most fundamentally deceptive – hierarchy I’ve ever encountered is the fundie hierarchy. There’s the unsaved and the Holy, and then whole ranks in each group, but standing at least among the Holy is, as I mentioned above, largely based on deception.

  33. But a lot of those who aren’t about their own suffering still like to promote at least the idea that they are.

    Naturally. Hence my caveat that the non-sufferers nonetheless “publicly assert that junk.”

  34. Alix

    I find the fundie mindset fascinating. If it weren’t also so repulsive and terrifying, I’d be inclined to study it.

    Just … gah. The. Creepiest. People. I. Know. Are all fundies.

    Hypocrisy’s an institution for them. Of course, this and all the “hate yourself” stuff I mentioned above goes unspoken and unacknowledged – and is vehemently denied by fundies when it’s brought to their attention – but it underlies everything they do.

    It’s disturbing.

  35. Well, actually, I have read some really good Christian fantasy — lots of interesting characters, exciting adventures, and a Supreme Being that isn’t afraid to kick a little ass . . . .
    it’s called the Old Testament.

    But here’s my favorite view on “The Book”

  36. Jessica

    I’m sure there’s wonderful, thought-provoking, contemporary, Christian literature out there. Somewhere.

    I’ve actually read a few books written by Christians that were excellent. But they’re very obscure, some of them out of print, because non-Christians won’t buy them for obvious reasons, and Christians won’t buy them because they are challenging. If they are both challenging and popular, it’s because a large segment of Christianity dismisses most of their challenging points to feel better about their own “walk with God.”

    If I want to read good literature, I rely on the recommendations of people I think have good taste. Life is more complicated than Christians would like to admit, and good literature reflects that.

    Also, to Alix, who said “Hate yourself. Hate the world. You’re a sinner, the world is Satan’s domain. Surrender to God, and be prepared to be assaulted for it. If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right.” This is, I believe, the main view of most Fundies. I hear this message all the time, but I think the real problem is that Fundies don’t seem to realize that they are not being assaulted by the Harry Potters of the world. Also, I believe the Bible passage in question was talking about being persecuted for beliving in Jesus, who generally preached in favor of aiding the poor, getting less rich, losing societal power, and generally being helpful, honest, and humble.

  37. Jeff-

    You make very good points, and I certainly agree that books and other forms of entertainment media are best taken on their own merits first no matter what religious structure (or political commentary, personal belief, morals, etc.) they espouse. Unfortunately, I find myself having a very hard time doing just that even if it is the most advisable way to go.

    When I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, I was about nine or ten, had no idea of the religious implications in the book despite going to Episcopalian Sunday school every week (At that age I don’t think I quite grasped the idea that the Bible and its stories existed outside of churches. Like, you took them outside and they turned to dust like a vampire in the sun.), and I really liked it. I never got around to reading some of the later books in the series until I was older though, and by then my disillusionment with Christianity through exposue to some particularly nasty Christian classmates made them seem preachy to me. That was a product of my sensitivity more than Mr. Lewis’s writing, I think, but it still made it very hard to read the books.

    I agree that I shouldn’t let personal experience and bias get in the way of a good book, but I do. I’m working on it.

  38. Actually, “Lord of the Rings” is a very Catholic book (well, six books in three volumes). All the major characters are Catholic archetypes, the plot expounds Catholic themes. No wonder Evangelicals dislike it.

    And the Matrix is pretty Christian indeed, Melissa. Not only is ‘Nebuchadnezzer’ a biblical reference, but the ship is “Mark III, No. 11′. the biblical verse Mark 3:11 reads “”And whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of him, they would fall down in front of him crying out, ‘Thou art the One!'” i.e., the Son of Man.

  39. If your faith in your faith is that weak, the choice of children’s literature should be the least of your worries.

    I used to make a similar point, privately and with compassion, to the Christian students who expressed discomfort with my classes. Among the students I respected the most were a couple who thought long and hard about their faith, the consequences of believing in it, and living by it, and decided to stick with it. (And isn’t that what the Jesuits are all about?)

    Part of the point of Christian fiction is to emphasize surrender to God and prayer. Mainstream fantasy tends to have characters who go out and save themselves without explicitly calling on God, and that, according to these people, is an evil message.

    So I guess that bit about “God helps those who help themselves” has been thrown out the window?

    Anyone else need brain bleach after viewing the PICTURE on this article?

    I’m embarassed to admit that I actually find the Potter-Jesus kinda appealing.

    I think that what gets me about the “fundie mindset” is that it is such an immature one. I mean, think about it. There’s that insistence on black-and-white, good-and-bad thinking. There’s an unwillingness or inability to think in complex or nuanced ways. There’s a uneasy fascination/repulsion dynamic with regards to sex. There’s a desire to be told what to do by authority figures, combined with a desire to become one. There is an insistence on one being right in all things and everyone else being wrong. There’s a tendency to believe that one is special and unique and also persecuted because of it.

    Most of us get these attitudes shaken out of us during junior high and high school, if not earlier.

  40. I agree that I shouldn’t let personal experience and bias get in the way of a good book, but I do. I’m working on it.

    You might try reading a few books that have religion as a central theme, but aren’t “religious.” Books like A Prayer for Owen Meany and Life of Pi, which are just beautiful, lovely books, might help move beyond that bias, because their point isn’t to preach, but to tell a good story that includes religious elements.

  41. Jessica-

    I wouldn’t say all books written by Christians were bad, but that I often have trouble enjoying stories with overt Christian themes in them. Is that what you meant? If not, I would have to argue with you about writing off all literature authored by Christians, as religion often doesn’t make it into their work.

  42. oddjob

    So I guess that bit about “God helps those who help themselves” has been thrown out the window?

    That bit is nowhere to be found in the Bible, despite the near universal assumption among Americans that it must be so. It’s actually a fiercely snarky quip from that notorious Deist and bon vivant, Benjamin Franklin.

  43. It’s actually a fiercely snarky quip from that notorious Deist and bon vivant, Benjamin Franklin

    …who would hurt himself laughing if he found out it had become widely regarded as emanating from the Bible.

    And if he weren’t, ya know, dead.

  44. Thanks Melissa, I will. Hooray for finally not being in college so I have time to read books of my choosing!

  45. oddjob

    …who would hurt himself laughing if he found out it had become widely regarded as emanating from the Bible.

    Something tells me he’d end his laughing by saying the 18th Cent. American version of “It figures!” 😉

  46. One of the most well known of these christian fantasy titles, Shadowmancer, is apparently incredibly gory, graphic, and violent.

    Just thought I’d mention that.

  47. everstar

    I managed to read all of the Narnia while completely missing the fact that they were allegorical. I still love them now that I know better, but I think that has a fair amount to do with my finding Aslan much cooler than Jesus. (Sorry, Jesus.)

  48. I agree that I shouldn’t let personal experience and bias get in the way of a good book, but I do. I’m working on it.

    We’re all guilty of bias in our reading. I can’t stand Hemingway, misogynistic twerp that he was, but I’m never sure if my believe that he couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag is because he really is horribly overrated, or because he’s so fond of so much that I dislike. 😛

  49. I’m never sure if my believe that he couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag is because he really is horribly overrated, or because he’s so fond of so much that I dislike

    He really sucks. I promise you.

  50. Lancastrian – If your cousin’s uncle lurves for his kids to read it, I’m not sure HE has read it. Pullman is noted for being somewhere between an atheist and an agnostic and for having quite serious problems with organized religions in general. I think the first two books are rather awesome and then it feels like, in the third, he had written himself into a corner and just had no patience left for handing things in a subtle fashion. You might be interested in this interview with him http://www.surefish.co.uk/culture/features/pullman_interview.htm in which there is some discussion of his rather harsh views of the Narnia books.

    Deep Thought – The archetypes in the Lord of the Rings (and indeed the whole world created by Tolkien aren’t Catholic. Well, I should say they are not solely Catholic. The amazing thing about mythology (and our Western religions belong firmly in that category whether believers like to admit it or not) is that the themes and characters appeal in stories all across different cultures. Tolkien’s aim was to create a mythology, a uniquely British one.

  51. KarateMonkey, are you sure the preview you saw wasn’t for The Dark Is Rising? That’s a totally different series. *grin* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dark_Is_Rising

  52. Fritz

    Sounds like Davey and Goliath to me…

  53. Kate217

    Isn’t “Christian Fiction” repetively redundant?

  54. SAP

    OK, what is it with these clowns and beards, anyway? Seriously, every time they draw a dude purporting to be “holy”, he’s got a face full of fur. What’s up with that, anyway?

    Oh, yeah, second the whole Narnia comparison. Apparently, if you don’t explicitly name one of the characters “Jesus”, the subtlety is lost on most Holy Rollers.

  55. I re-read the Chronicles of Narnia a few years ago, and I was actually rather let down. I was aware of the Christian allegory when I read them as a teenager, but as an adult the only thing I could see was how much the world absolutely does not work that way: Jesus does not step in to make everything right, the way Aslan does in his cameos in the middle volumes. I particularly remember how he pursued a character who had misstepped, and even clawed open her (I think) back for her own recent cruelty. (I don’t have the books in front of me, so I can’t look it up.)

    In fact, as an adult reader I found imperfect Edmund to be the only interesting character. But I’ve developed a general weakness for the shade-of-gray types — Boromir, for instance, is the only member of the Fellowship who doesn’t make me vaguely drowsy.

  56. David Buckna

    http://www.mugglenet.com/editorials/editorials/edit-beauseigneura01.shtml

    Is Harry Potter the Son of God?
    An original editorial by Abigail BeauSeigneur

    ===

    See also: Looking for God in Harry Potter by John Granger (book)

    and his blog http://www.hogwartsprofessor.com

  57. oddjob

    He really sucks. I promise you.

    I can remember having two different English teachers who had diametrically opposing views on this matter. The caption under the fan’s photo in my senior yearbook was “Mama Hemmingway”.

  58. oddjob

    The amazing thing about mythology (and our Western religions belong firmly in that category whether believers like to admit it or not) is that the themes and characters appeal in stories all across different cultures.

    A point that characterized Joseph Campbell’s entire career. The details of the stories change with the culture, but the underlying stories told do not.

  59. Alix

    The details of the stories change with the culture, but the underlying stories told do not.

    And this is where I go off on a tangent just to disagree with Joseph Campbell – the stories often DO differ in more than surface details. One thing that frustrates me to no end about Campbell and folks like him is that they either simplify the myths down so much that they aren’t even myths anymore, or they edit the myths to make them fit the pattern they expect to see. And, frankly, those cultural trappings that so many mythologists write off are important – and often essential to the myths.

    …Er. Sorry. If there’s one thing I am, it’s a mythology buff.

  60. oddjob

    (I knew someone was going to gripe about that. For myself I find it illuminating that there’s any commonality, but I can also understand why someone would beg to differ about the differences not mattering all that much.)

  61. Alix

    Again, sorry. Campbell’s right to an extent – commonalities do exist, and comparisons can be drawn between similar myths – but I think he went too far. It really depends on where one’s coming from, in terms of perspective on myths.

    One way in which the Campbell-type perspective is useful is when it comes to, say, attempting to recreate Proto-Indo-European mythology, which you can only do by trying to find the commonalities between all the various Indo-European mythologies.

    I still think Campbell glossed over too much, though. 😛

    (Again, sorry for the tangent…)

  62. KarateMonkey

    Rotund, I am certain the preview wasn’t for The Dark is Rising. I have read that one (although many years ago). My wife and I are also Christopher Eccleston fans, and are eagerly awaiting the movie.

    So that’s not it, but it’s not a bad guess.

  63. Deanna

    There are lots of good fantasy and sf writers who weave religion into their books – David Brin, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Robert J Sawyer immediately leap to mind – but their writing is unlikely to please the fundies. Kay does fantasy set in an alternative earth, and he portrays Judaism, Christianity, and Islam objectively as they parallel the real Earth’s medieval periods. Sawyer’s characters are often scientists curious about faith or losing their faith – Calculating God would give them the heebie-geebies. David Brin has several SF books that explore religious and philosophical thought without exploring existing faiths at all.

  64. mustella

    “God helps them that help themselves” is the moral of an Aesop’s fable, and so very, very old.

    I have had fundies tell me in all seriousness that the Narnia books are evil because they contain things like elves and witches. The fact that Lewis was a christian writer was completely negated due to him not being a “fundamentalist” christian writer. These fundies need to create silly cusades for themselves (war on xmas, pokemon cards) to distract them from all the charity and compassion that truly following thier faith would require.

  65. oddjob

    Deanna, you left out my favorite, Ursula Le Guin, whose writing often shows Taoist influence.

    Oh, and of course to really put a fundy’s knickers in a twist there’s always the Avalon series that Marion Zimmer Bradley influenced so heavily!

  66. There are lots of good fantasy and sf writers who weave religion into their books

    I’m sure that parallels are drawn unintentionally (or inferred incorrectly) quite often, too. The Star Wars series has been called a Christian allegory because of the triad of Vader (father), Luke (son), and the Force (holy ghost). IIRC, Lucas has explicitly dismissed the parallel (which makes sense, as it’s decidedly imperfect based on Vader’s story arc in particular). But nonetheless, the comparisons persist.

    Which may simply reflect the possibility that there really are only seven stories to be told, if Aristotle is to be believed.

  67. Benjamin

    Alix:

    Campbell’s single greatest contribution to literary theory was assuring mediocre authors that their inability to write a decent character wasn’t their fault.

  68. Alix

    Benjamin – I’m saving that to my quote file.

  69. I am going to use a lot of modern fiction in my female imiages of the divine in the west class next year, especially feminist sci fi and fantasy authors. I am practically frothing at the mouth while working on my syllabus…..

  70. It’s actually a fiercely snarky quip from that notorious Deist and bon vivant, Benjamin Franklin.

    That is wonderful to know! Ben Franklin, along with Ed Abby and Mark Twain, are among my favorite sarcastic Americans. Aesop’s cool too, if that is the original.

    As for Campbell and universal mythologies… I used to think that this made sense, until I took a closer look at the mythological frameworks present in Native American, Australian Aborigine, and Japanese mythologies.

    Just as the languages of those people are alien from a Indo-European perspective, so are their mythological assumptions. Sometimes culture does matter, yo…

  71. oddjob

    That is wonderful to know!

    It can be found in a 1736 edition of Poor Richard’s Alamanac.

  72. oddjob

    (According to what I read online.)

  73. Jessica

    Lancastrian–

    My apologies. I don’t write off all books written by Christians–I’m talking specifically about books marketed as “Christian Lit.” A lot of (not all) “Christian Lit” is just the same old pop literature without swearing or sex.

    I don’t mind reading books with Christian themes, as long as they are good books. I may not agree with the end conclusion, but at least good books 1) entertain 2) make me think 3) do both at the same time.

    I like Tolkien because he creates a very deep, vivid world and tells epic fantasy stories in that world. I like CS Lewis because he writes a good story–although I wouldn’t go to “Narnia” for a comprehensive understanding of Christian theology. 😉 I think the “Dark is Rising” book series has some absolutely fun and thought-provoking mythic themes, no matter whether they are Christian or Pagan (and they always read more Pagan to me than Christian). I thought “The Golden Compass” was a pretty good, engaging story that I really haven’t thought much about since I read it three or four years ago.

    I guess it boils down to this: I like books not based on what particular religion they portray, but on how and how well they make me see both the fictional and real world.

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